Diplomacy According to Rex Tillerson: Trump’s Puppet or His Own Man?

By any stretch, former Exxon Mobile CEO and newly confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is an impressive, formidable figure. He is known within the highest echelons of the business world to be a savvy but tough negotiator as well as someone who has almost prescient like foresight into the trends of the industry for which he reigned supreme for so long.

And, on a personal note, I have to admit that when I watched his Senate Confirmation hearing on January 11, I was impressed with the reputed savvy that he handled the at times blistering 9-hour grilling from Democratic Senators like Edward Markey. And to Tillerson’s credit, he flat out disagreed with President Trump on matters like withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and was willing, unlike Trump, to state that it is a “fair assumption” that Putin was aware of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. election. So all of this played very well indeed to both the public and the Senate Committee he sat before.

During the hearings Tillerson did, however, refuse to call Russia’s Putin a war criminal when asked if he would do so by Republican Senator Marco Rubio in speaking contextually to Russia’s military actions in support of Syria’s dictatorial regime.

“I would not use that term,” Tillerson said, adding: “Those are very, very serious charges to make and I would want to have much more information before reaching a conclusion.”
-Rex Tillerson, January 11 Secretary of State Confirmation Hearings

Upon hearing this, Rubio fired back stating that, basically, the information regarding the atrocities in cities like Aleppo was public information, it wasn’t classified or otherwise difficult to ascertain the scope of inhumane actions that Russia was supporting Syria in perpetrating. Ultimately, Mr. Tillerson held his ground and refused to characterize Putin as a war criminal. Now, was this out of actual belief on Tillerson’s part or was it simply his way of preserving the relationship with he and Putin for future diplomatic dealings between Russia and the United States. Which, in one sense, may actually call prudent on Tillerson’s part if the intended future efforts at diplomacy with Russia are based solely in what’s best for the American people and the world at large.

Which brings me to the main point: it is well documented that Rex Tillerson, as CEO of Exxon Mobile, the world’s largest oil producer, has had a long-standing relationship with Russia in general and Putin in particular. The two are not, by any stretch of the imagination, unfamiliar with one another. Couple this fact with Trump’s very open and often clumsily stated desire to cozy up to Russia is a cause for concern. Is Tillerson’s appointment a part of a larger diplomatic and policy shift? And since it’s a foregone conclusion that Russia did meddle with the U.S. election, what sort of say did the Kremlin have in Trump’s choice for Secretary of State. Is Tillerson going to be a man who stands on American principles or will he be Trump’s puppet, who, in turn, very oddly and frighteningly seems to be Putin’s. Only time will tell.

Tillers is now officially the Secretary of State of these United States. A very short time from the writing of this post he will address the State Department for the first time. We will be watching his path closely. The clock starts now, Mr. Tillerson. We wish you God’s speed and much success but know that We, The People, will be watching.

More as this story develops.

Think Passionately. Disrupt Strategically.
-A. Lawrence Haskins

United States Congress: (202) 225-3121

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